Trade Target – Adam Laroche

Throughout the 2011-2012 off-season, Kevin Creagh will be looking at players that have been rumored to be non-tender or trade candidates, based primarily off of rumors and reports from MLB Trade Rumors.  The review isn’t to suggest that the players are being pursued by the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The purpose of the series is to explore the potential options on the market to see who might be a good fit for the 2012 roster.

If I were to ask you if you would like the Pirates to get a 1B this offseason that will hit 20 HR’s in 2012, would you say yes?  I’m sure you would.  If I were to then say that 1B would be Adam LaRoche, what would you say?  Probably a string of expletives that would be unprintable on this site.  But like Joni Mitchell said in song, “Don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.”

The Washington Nationals are in pursuit of both Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder this offseason in hopes of landing one of them and putting the Nationals squarely on the map as a viable contender.  If either of those guys are obtained, though, there is the small problem of what to do with their incumbent 1B, Adam LaRoche, who is signed for $8 million in 2012 with a $10 million mutual option ($1 million buyout) in 2013.  There are reports that the Nationals could only make a Pujols or Fielder deal work if they traded LaRoche.

LaRoche suffered through an injury-plagued 2011 season that saw him not play after May 21st and require shoulder surgery.  He finished the year with only 3 HR’s in 43 games.  However, before 2011 LaRoche’s last year with hitting less than 20 HR’s was 2004 when he was a part-time starter with the Braves.  LaRoche’s career OPS is 815 and his career wOBA is .347.  Both of those marks would have been good for 2nd highest on the Pirates (trailing McCutchen’s 820 OPS and .360 wOBA) among regulars with more than 250 PA’s.

LaRoche can be a maddening player to watch at times.  His demeanor and mannerisms lead fans to believe that he is a soulless robot, but it was said that he was a key cog in the locker room behind closed doors.  His April struggles and July hot streaks are well documented, but the end result is that game #2 counts the same as game #102 and his end of season stats show a fairly consistent player over his career.

LaRoche is a league average 1B, both offensively and defensively.  He is not a star.  He is not a building block.  He is a place-holder until something better would come along, either internally or externally.  What he would hopefully do is hit 20 HR’s for a team that is starved for power at the moment.  LaRoche is already familiar with the city, the ballpark, and some of the players on the team.

But here’s the tricky part….what is he worth?  Assuming that he would be a one year rental and factoring in the $1 million buyout for 2013, plus using $5M/WAR:

2012 $8.0 1.5 -$0.5
2013 $1.0 -$1.0
TOTAL $9.0 1.5 -$1.5

OK…LaRoche is not worth his current salary at that conservative projection of his 2012 value.  So the Nationals would need to pad the coffers to make it work for the Pirates (or most teams) to see the need to assume that deal.  In essence, this would be a pure salary dump for the Nationals.

If the Pirates were to give a C-level prospect, would the Nationals kick in $2 million to help balance the ledger?  I’m not sure.  If it were that easy, as with most trade speculations, some other team would do it.  But there are not a lot of teams that would see LaRoche as an upgrade to their current 1B situation.  In that respect, the Pirates are (un)lucky.

Bringing LaRoche back would cause quite a few groans among the Pirate fan populace.  Watching that long, looping swing can be teeth-grinding at times.  But if the Pirates are looking to improve their offense and not finding free agency or the rest of the trade market to their liking, LaRoche could be a fallback solution.

Author: Kevin Creagh

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